Upgrade Itch - Zacate On My Mind

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When you're the kind of person who builds your own computers, you tend to get a little itchy when new technology gets announced. You get an upgrade itch every so often. Well, I've got it again. I've had my desktop now for close to 2 years and a lot has changed in the last 18 months. One of the most glaring would be AMD's entry into the ITX market with the Fusion platform. They're desktop and notebook products with graphics integrated onto the processor itself, what AMD calls APU's, have been nicknamed Zacate.

I've been looking around at prices and I've decided to mock up a few set-ups that will possibly go into my next build. Here are the parts that I would go with on a small-footprint-energy-efficient build:

Antec Mini-ITX Case ISK100Antec ISK-100 - A true Mini-ITX case for the footprint conscious. This is trully small. It measures in at 248 mm (H) x 108 mm (W) x 212 mm (D). It's side about as wide and as high as an outstretched hand. To fit everything in, some sacrifices had to be made. It does fit 2 hard drives, but it will only take 2.5" laptop hard drives. It does not have a power supply in the traditional desktop sense either. Inside the case is a small power board that distributes power to the devices inside. What gives it power is an external AC Adapter, much more common on laptops than in desktops. The AC Adapter is only 90 watts, so that gives you an idea of how energy efficient the parts you choose should be.

Gigabyte M1 Mini ITX DDR3 1066 Motherboard GA-E350N-USB3Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3 - This board has all the new goodies. It's got USB 3.0, SATA 6 GB/s ports and DDR3. The integrated graphics also support DX11. Having VGA, DVI and HDMI also give you flexibility when it comes to displays. It's built for durability too. Most Gigabyte boards these days have an extra layer of copper in the board to make them more sturdy in constant use. They also come with 'solid' capacitors that are more heat resistant and don't leak like electrolytic capacitors. All in all a great board packed with features and built to last.

Kingston ValueRAM 2 GB 1333MHz PC3-10600 DDR3 DIMM Desktop Memory KVR1333D3N9/2G4 GB (2 x 2 GB) Kingston DDR3 ValueRAM - I chose this in particular because I have been using Kingston RAM for more than 6 years now. I have never had any problems with them. Another great thing about certain  ValueRAM models is their size. The one pictured left are low-profile and if you're working with a case as tiny as the Antec ISK-100, every millimeter counts.

Seagate Momentus 7200.4 320 GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s 16MB Cache 2.5 Inch Internal NB Hard Drive ST9320423AS-Bare Drive(Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging)
320 GB Seagate Momentus - I've always used Seagate, starting with the 1st computer I built. I will continue to do so, since they are the only manufacture ballsy enough to guarantee their products for 5 years. Anyway, since laptop drives are definitely more money per gigabyte of storage, I opted for the current smallest capacity. It would be more practical from cost perspective to get a small-capacity laptop drive to fit the case and a large-capacity external USB drive to store your stuff. And with USB 3.0, the file transfer speeds will not matter so much because it will be fast enough not to bore you from waiting.

Western Digital My Book Essential 2 TB USB 3.0/2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive2 TB WD My Book Essential (USB 3.0) Drive - When it comes to friends and external hard drives, most of mine recommend Western Digital drives. You may ask why 2 TB? My rule of thumb for hardware has always been to get a hard drive that is half of the current largest capacity. This wiggle room allows me to buy a drive and use it for at least 2 years without feeling the pinch. It has worked for me for years. 2 TB may be a little over half the current 3TB king of the hill, but with the large files these days thos extra GB's will come in handy. Especially when you decide to use your digital camera's 12 mega-pixels full on. You do need to store those memories somewhere.

Liteon ETAU208-96 Top Load DVD/CD Writer BlackLiteOn External Optical Drive - I've been using LiteOn for as long as I can remember building PC's. I've only had 1 drive die on me after 2 years, but that was because I really abused it. I would burn 15-20 DVD's for friends in a single sitting. Then again, in hindsight, with that abuse I'm surprised it lasted 2 years. Lesson learned for me. I don't abuse my drives that much anymore. But again, it's a brand I trust. And they don't cost as much as the other major brands. Oh, and a little trivia. LiteOn makes drives for Sony, so if you've got a Sony DVD drive, chances are it was made by LiteOn.

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